I became a legislator to change our justice system after being a lawyer in it for under a decade. My next legislative installment, the Fresh Start Package, is a part of my continued effort to create that change.

Voter Rights Restoration

Voting is a basic right! That right is a citizen’s way to engage in our democracy. In Wisconsin, if you commit a crime, those rights are taken away. Those who lose that right get them back when they exit prison UNLESS they are put on probation or parole!

66,000 people in Wisconsin are disenfranchised from their constitutional right to vote! Most of these people live in a community like the rest of us. Many work and pay taxes, yet they are denied their right which is their voice. The voting rights restoration act would restore voting rights to those on probation, parole, and extended supervision, so people aren’t denied their right, especially for those who are on supervision solely because they cannot afford to pay fines or restitution.

Notifications of Voting Rights Restoration

This bill would require that DOC must notify these reentering citizens when their rights are restored AND register them to vote that instant. Many reentering citizens aren’t aware when their voting rights are restored, and it is our duty to keep them informed.

Cleaning up CCAP

CCAP is a tremendous barrier for people trying to better their lives. The information on CCAP has been used in housing and job discrimination, even if the individual has been cleared of any wrongdoing! I have two bills that would remove unnecessary information from CCAP. One would remove all information regarding civil cases if all payments are paid and 8 years has passed since the last payment. The other would remove the information of a case if the individual is found non-guilty and pardoned of the crime.

Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act

When you’re convicted of a crime, many of your rights are taken away, like access to public housing, eligibility for student loans, and access to employment. How are you supposed to better yourself when the deck is stacked against you? This bill would allow people to petition for certain civil rights to be restored three years after their release.

Certificates of Qualified Employment

While in prison, many individuals learn skills that could help them get a job once they re-enter, but their time in prison often discredits these skills. I’ve proposed that we have more skills taught in prison and also provide a certificate that validates the skills learned and provides a strong credential for re-entering citizens while they apply for jobs.
When people talk about reentering citizens, they often talk about giving “second chances.” Candidly, I don’t like the phrase. People shouldn’t be limited to two chances. None of us would be where we are today if we had been given just two chances. With that in mind, I hope you’ll join me in opening your arms to reentering citizens and allow them the fresh start they deserve.

Written by State Sen. Lena Taylor

State Sen. Lena Taylor

Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor represents the 4th State Senate District in Milwaukee.